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Review of Dean Giles “Alien Apocalypse Payback”

Alien Apocalypse: Payback concludes the three short story/novella arc of the Alien Apocalypse serial.  Leon Weber has faced down the alien enemy and figured out its weakness, has saved his son and discovered that not all of the alien’s offspring are inherently evil.  With a desperate plan in mind, he wants to defeat the alien once and for all, or die trying.

Like the other installments in this tale, the odds are stacked against the slim bits of humanity that still remain, especially as the alien entity continues to evolve and works at creating genetic mutations to do its bidding and find the few humans remaining so it can feed.  But Leon has discovered one of its very few weaknesses and has a slim chance to exploit it.

This was a satisfying series.  The author has created a rollicking science fiction tale that is dark and filled with despair and yet could easily be translated into a good old fashion alien invasion movie for the masses.  It was a fun and easy read and I would recommend checking out all three installments since all three are fairly cheap on the kindle and are a fun, if quick, ride.

Alien Apocalypse: Payback can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Apocalypse-Payback-Dean-Giles-ebook/dp/B00LBEQ7EW/ref=la_B005AQTGUY_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406760050&sr=1-9

Review of Lee Brait’s “Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic”

Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic is a short story that I picked up free for the kindle.  Set in the not-so-distant future, we are introduced to Linc Freemore, who works for a company dedicated to the war effort.  A war that appears to be occurring between the United States (or perhaps, more generically, the “West”) and the oil rich countries of the Middle East.  The U.S. is actually being bombed in this war and gas has reached around $10 a gallon.  Linc is just trying to finish a project so he can get a day off, but his day starts off dealing with some gang violence and saving some school children who are almost ran over by a runaway car that was shot up.  Gangs have grown more courageous and willing to assault just about anyone, and later that same day Linc discovers that first hand when he comes to the rescue of a girl on a rural road who is being chased on foot by another biker gang.  Linc’s cowardly coworker flees, forcing him to take action and improvise ways to keep the girl safe and to stay alive.

The story is short, sweet, and to the point.  Better yet, it was a free introduction to the Linc Freemore saga and it appears that the second short story is also available via the kindle.

This short tale was a fun introduction that can somewhat stand on its own, though the author made sure to give you reason to want to check out what is next.  Linc is probably more than what he appears to be given his willingness to jump into a fight and become the hero.  A simple corporate schmo he is not.  The bits and pieces of the near-apocalyptic world the author has created is interesting and fairly plausible, which in some ways makes this story somewhat tantalizing.  A precursor to the world of Mad Max and company, where fuel is rapidly disappearing along with civility, law, and order?  Perhaps.

Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic can still be (at this time) picked up for free at http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Freemore-Apocalyptic-Science-ebook/dp/B00F6KB7I8/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406757781&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=oilt+to+ashes

Review of Stephen North’s “Dead Tide Surge”

Dead Tide Surge is the third book in Stephen North’s Dead Tide Series, and I have previously reviewed the other two installments, Dead Tide, and Dead Tide Rising.  I read both prior to their re-release by Permuted Press and so I do not know for certain if there were significant changes, specifically a transition from present to past tense being used by the author.  This is the first of this series that I have read that was not in present tense.  While the transition didn’t change the story or impact the characters or dialog, the immediacy felt with present tense falls away a bit here.  That isn’t meant as a criticism.  The majority of stories are written in past tense for a reason and there is value to crafting a tale in that format.  Most people find it less jarring and more aesthetically pleasing.  While this may be true, I can say that the present tense versions of the first two books in this series were more than satisfactory for me-the pacing was fast and the short chapters that shuffle the reader from one character to the next was abrupt, but in a good way for someone who enjoys a bit of disruptive force being used in the stories they read.  Despite the tense change, the short, sharp chapters remain.  Reading the Dead Tide series is like getting shot at by an automatic weapon, with perhaps a dozen different story lines crashing against one another and keeps the reader on their toes.  Certainly not a style that everyone enjoys, but it has allowed the author to manage the experiences of an ensemble cast scattered around the Tampa Bay area who are all dealing with the onslaught of the undead and it keeps them all top of mind as they appear on the pages with great frequency.

Dead Tide Surge starts up as abruptly as its predecessor left off, so if it has been a while since you read Dead Tide Rising, it may take a few chapters to catch on to where each character, or groups of characters, ended up by the end of book two.  But it has been nearly four years since I read the prior installment in this series and was still able to recall the bulk of what the characters who have survived to this point have been through.  My only hope is that I don’t have to wait several more years for the next installment.  Originally, I presumed this would be a trilogy, and at some points in this book it appeared as though some of the many story lines were drawing to a conclusion.  The author did a good job of adding enough surprises so that while some characters meet their demise, others have plenty of reason to go on fighting to survive through at least one more book.  Some of the many strands of this very complex web do cross paths and I could believe that the fourth book could be the final stand of this series, though who is to say?  Plenty of the characters have not interacted with one another as of yet.  The author will have to determine if everyone will be together on the same page before all is said and done.  My gut tells me Mr. North isn’t quite sure himself how things will end up-will there be hope or will it all end in blood and despair?

With all the tightly interwoven plot elements here, reading the first two books is pretty much mandatory to understand what is going on here in book 3.  And if you enjoy tales of zombie gore and violence that is character driven (driven by a large cast of characters, that is) then it is worth picking up the trilogy.

Dead Tide Surge can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Tide-Surge-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00KPKGCFC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1406668944

I’m the featured author over at Zombie Authors Blog!

I was notified with the pleasant news that I am the featured author over at the Zombie Authors Blog for the next couple of weeks.  So while you may have found me here on my own slice of the blogosphere, please go check out what they have to say about me over at Zombie Authors:  http://zombie-authors.blogspot.com/

Thanks to Jule Romans for giving me the heads up on this nice bit of news.

Review of Shana Festa’s “Time of Death: Induction”

Time of Death: Induction introduces the reader to Emma Rossi, a nursing student living in southwest Florida when the zombie apocalypse begins.  While the prologue is told in third person and gives a hint as to who patient zero might be, the rest of the tale is told in first person from Emma’s perspective.  She works at the hospital that is first hit by the advent of the dead rising, but her shift ends before things get crazy.  Still, through the combination of a violent storm and the fast spread of the virus things crash down all around her at home, with her husband Jake and their little dog Daphne fleeing for their lives as their home is overwhelmed by the walking dead.

After a series of narrow escapes, Emma and Jake manage to hook up with a group of soldiers who have claimed a Target superstore as their barricaded base of operations.  But it is clear that while the location appears to be secure they are far from safe as the world around them crumbles in the blink of an eye.  When Jake disappears on a supply mission and things start to fall apart at the store, Emma is forced to race through one harrowing and tragic event after another.

While Time of Death: Induction doesn’t introduce any new elements to the zombie genre-the zeds here are slow moving, traditional Romero zombies and not the ‘infected’ or have any differing abilities, the author has created a solid, fast moving story of personal survival.  There is plenty of gore and death, and the addition of the little dog the main character wants to keep sheltered and protected will add a sense of impending dread for anyone who is an animal lover, since Daphne seems to get herself into more sticky situations than the main character.

The pacing of the story is fast, with the main character and various other survivors she is with dealing with one traumatic event after another as the body count continues to rise and hope becomes fleeting.  The writing is smooth with no significant editing concerns.  The author provides Emma with a strong voice-she is easy to identify with and appreciate as a regular person thrown into an untenable situation where she is forced to make one difficult decision time after time.  The story is heavy on the undead being the main challenge for the survivors rather than human confrontations, with the exception of a rather brief but intense interaction with some desperate outsiders to Emma’s group.  Beyond this, there are some arguments but they take a back seat to basic day to day and minute by minute survival against the undead.  While Emma and Jake are fleshed out characters, the secondary players were less detailed, which is often a challenge faced when a story is told in first person.  We don’t get to know many of the other characters too well before many are obliterated in the apocalypse.  This isn’t a stiff criticism but more of an acknowledgement that this is Emma’s tale and the story sticks closely with her worldview and perspective throughout.

This is the author’s first novel and this appears to be the first of a series or trilogy.  Shanna Festa has created an exciting, enjoyable tale of desperation and survival, and I look forward to checking out the second book when it becomes available.

Time of Death: Induction can be found here:      http://www.amazon.com/Time-Death-Induction-Volume-1/dp/1618682725/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Review of Patrick Rutigliano’s “Surviving The Crash”

Surviving the Crash is a series of three novellas set in an alternate universe where the stock market crash of 1929 adds the additional horrific feature of the world also crashing into darkness.  Strange, alien creatures out of nightmare have come to earth and rule the night, devouring those who are foolish or unfortunate enough to be caught out after the sun goes down.  Hiding in the bowels of the buildings that have survived the destruction of these monsters isn’t enough to keep them at bay-they hunt by night and set traps to lure the living into darkness by day.

George is a man ready to end it all.  He’s barely hanging on, and about to jump off the ledge of a building he wanders into when he meets up with Francis.  Tough and defying all feminine stereotypes, Francis is a woman who is called upon by the local mobsters, who now rule New York City, when they need a dirty job done.  Francis calls George’s bluff on killing himself and gives him a place to crash while he sorts himself out.  George, who is a World War I vet, knows how to handle himself but he’s never met anyone quite like Francis.  And when she is called upon by the biggest crime boss in town to do another job, George decides to partner up with her.  Their assigned task is to begin the process of killing the monsters that rule the city with a little help from some of the mobster’s goons.  It’s an impossible job-a suicide mission-but is right up Francis’s alley.  Especially since she has no reason to trust the man she’s working for and suspects he has reasons beyond the desire to protect the city and those who still live in it.

Surviving the Crash is essentially one novel broken into three distinct, chronological chapters.  Francis is the tough as nails heroine-tougher than any of her male counterparts by far, which could have come off as contrived if it weren’t for the fact that the author does such a good job of making her a both believable and thoroughly likable badass character.  She is human and shows occasional vulnerability that George can see, though no one else does.  He is her confidant. To everyone else, including the creatures which hunt and terrorize the human race, she is something to be feared.

Each tale takes things up a notch, transforming this story from becoming a run of the mill apocalyptic tale with some unique monsters to fear to something far more exciting and suspenseful.  There is a bigger picture, and Francis and George will find out what part they play in the last stand humanity may ever make.  The author does a good job of developing his characters, allowing Francis and George to grow and change thanks in part to their relationship and their interactions with the people and creatures of the dark world in which they live.  I believe the author could have crafted multiple tales that somewhat mirrored the first novella-a series of serialized adventure tales-giving us more of the same.  That might have been fun.  Instead, he chose to increase the tension and the profound significance of Francis’s journey, which culminates in a very dark and enjoyable ride straight into the depths of hell.

Surviving the Crash is both an entertaining adventure tale and a chilling horror saga.  I loved the characters and feared for them.  The world they live in is dark, dank place filled with plenty of reasons to give up hope and despair.  But with a heroine like Francis on our side, it seems clear that there is always reason to hope.

Surviving The Crash can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Crash-Patrick-Rutigliano-ebook/dp/B00KWPO5CC/ref=la_B006WSAVUS_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403213430&sr=1-13

Review of Brian Moreland’s “The Vagrants”

The Vagrants is the latest work from Brian Moreland, an author who I have come to rely on to create tales of creeping horror and gore that also has intelligence about them.  His work is well researched for a taste of authenticity and despite the supernatural phenomena that occurs on the pages, there is a sense of believability to his characters.  The Vagrants has a similar flavor to it and the author has once again chosen to introduce us to a new geographical environment-this time the urban sprawl of Boston, where the crosshairs are on the homeless.

Daniel Finley is a journalist who has decided to spend several months living amongst the homeless population of the city, behaving as one of them to see what it is really like and to craft a novel that will expose the hidden plight they suffer through.  At first, his experiences are normal, as far as being homeless goes-he lives under an overpass among a group of people with a variety of tragic tales-some of which are junkies and dangerous, though most are simply down on their luck people who still have hope that they can turn things around.  But then a traveling self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ comes to the underpass with his zombie-like followers and starts converting the homeless to his cause.  He speaks of the end of days and the destruction of those who do not serve his dark gods.  Daniel is almost pulled into the hypnotic tribe of his followers but manages to escape Mordecai’s clutches.

The novel he writes is a success but it seems that everything Daniel looks as he resumes his normal life off the streets, he sees Mordecai’s followers, calling for him to join them.  That, along with the disappearance of a professor who is as intrigued by the homeless as Daniel and several other strange events occurring in his life lead to a confrontation with Mordecai, with gruesome results.

This is a shorter work than the rest of the tales the author has produced (except for a short story that introduced The Witching House) and perhaps that was why I was left wishing for something more.  The supernatural element here is creepy, as the author tends to do extremely well, though it is a bit more clipped and mysterious-there is little in the way of a the ‘big reveal’ we’ve been treated to in the past.  Still, the story has the same dark, gritty, razors edge flavor that Mr. Moreland’s larger works have, and leaves room for a more detailed tale down the road.  For fans of his work, it will entertain like all the rest.

The Vagrants can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/Vagrants-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00K1WUCIC/ref=la_B002BM3020_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403149249&sr=1-5

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